Mickelson looking to cure 'beyond pathetic' putting

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 7, 2015, 1:32 am

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods withdrawing with injury.

Phil Mickelson three-putting his way to another missed cut.

Is this the new normal for 2015?

A day after Woods was whisked away in a golf cart because his glutes misfired, Mickelson won’t stick around for the weekend at his hometown event because of a deactivated putter.

No wonder the locals bemoaned the end of an era: It was the first time that both Tiger and Phil failed to play the weekend in consecutive starts.

Lefty stood on a podium after his round Friday looking and sounding broken. Having entered the season brimming with optimism, his confidence has been shattered by eight relatively listless rounds.

“You can’t compete out here putting the way I did,” he said. “It was one of my worst putting performances, and the first few weeks, really, have been the same way. You simply can’t compete at this level putting like that.”

In all there were five three-putts, the most of any player in the 156-man field and Mickelson’s career high through 36 holes in a non-major.

“I’m down,” he said. “I’m frustrated.”

And for good reason.

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After torpedoing Tom Watson’s captaincy during an uncomfortable Ryder Cup news conference, Mickelson disappeared from view for nearly four months. The occasional report trickled out, about Phil’s diet and his fitness and his renewed power, but since making his debut at the Humana Challenge he has been plagued by the same inconsistency that led to the worst year of his career in 2014.

Following his trunk slam in Phoenix, this is the first time since 2002 that Mickelson has missed the cut in consecutive weeks on Tour.

“I feel like I’m hitting the ball tee to green quite well, really well,” he said. “But if I can’t get back to the levels of 2013, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, because this is very frustrating.”

In the 30 Tour events since his surprising breakthrough at Muirfield, Mickelson has only a pair of top 10s and eight missed cuts or withdrawals. Last year he had a career-low one top 10 in 21 tries, his first winless season since ’03.

He was ranked outside the top 100 in total driving and ball-striking, but whatever gains he has made in those areas during the offseason have been negated by putting that he described as “beyond pathetic.”

“He’s very frustrated at the moment,” said Butch Harmon, Mickelson’s swing coach. “He feels like he’s played well enough to be in a pretty good position, and he’s done nothing with the putter. It was just horrendous how bad it was out there.”

Worse, Mickelson doesn’t appear any closer to a solution.

At the behest of short-game guru Dave Pelz, Mickelson began the year with a unique putting approach, using the claw grip for putts inside 10 feet and the conventional grip for those outside that range.

He abandoned the claw heading into Torrey Pines, but reverted back with a few holes remaining in his second round in a last-ditch effort to make the cut. It didn’t work, as Mickelson’s 74-72 left him three shots adrift.

Moving forward, he said he didn’t know which grip he would use.

“I don’t think that the claw is the long-term solution,” he said, “although I think it’s a good way to putt. But it’s not ultimately where I want to be.”

Whatever Mickelson is doing now isn’t working.

Through two rounds he needed a whopping 64 putts – including 33 in the opening round, when he lost 2.96 strokes to the field on the greens.

“If I had answers,” he said, “I would be out there putting better.”

Added Harmon: “He’s just in one of those funks that you get in and it gets in your head.”

Even Mickelson says that what likely began as a technical issue has morphed into something mental, as well.

Like anyone he has endured hot and cold spells during his career, but his putting was never a long-term concern. That’s not the case anymore, and for a player whose game is predicated on confidence, his mojo is now in short supply.

“I don’t think it will be a quick fix,” he said, “because if you putt bad for a few weeks, it’s going to take not only fundamental change, but it will take some good low rounds and some hot putting streaks to get the confidence back, too.”

Unlike Woods, whose problems are more widespread (health, driver, short game), Mickelson’s issue at least is more isolated.

Right now, that’s little consolation. For these aging warriors, the top of the leaderboard has never seemed further away.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.